Uncle Mo Todd Pletcher
Indian Charlie—Playa Maya, by Arch
He needed to come home fast off those slow fractions and he did so and more with that stunning :22 4/5 final quarter under a hand ride. Would rather see a :25 2/5 opening quarter than a :22 2/5; would rather see a 1:36 2/5 mile than a 1:33 2/5; would rather he win by 3 3/4 lengths than 13 3/4 lengths; would rather see an 89 Beyer than a 109. So all in all this was a good first-out prep, especially getting slammed into hard at the start. And remember, there is hardly any run-up in one-turn Gulf races, so the opening quarter is always slow. Combine that with the bumping and it wasn’t as slow as it seems This race showed he can relax early and fly home late, and he galloped out like a bear (I got him in 1:49 1/5 for the 1 1/8 miles). Now it’s time to really get serious.
Dialed In Nick Zito
Mineshaft —Miss Doolittle, by Storm Cat
People have a fascination with this horse, as he’s still second choice in the Future Wager despite his allowance defeat. Would prefer one more start under his belt, but he does have the look of a Derby horse; he just needs pace. Perhaps it’s best that he took a step backward in a paceless allowance race after his sensational Holy Bull score coming off one 6-furlong maiden race. Now, if he can get back to where he was with a solid effort in the Florida Derby it will set him up well for the big one.
Soldat Kiaran McLaughlin
War Front—Le Relais, by Coronado’s Quest
Breezed a half in :48 4/5. The Florida Derby is shaping up as a tough, competitive race, and this will be his final opportunity to get back to his old running style. He can carry his speed a long way, but can’t use it up too early in a race like the Kentucky Derby, especially with a marginal and unproven 10-furlong pedigree. Remember, most Derby winners don’t win their final prep and he has two big 1 1/8-mile wins already, so it’s more important he does it the right way.
Premier Pegasus Myung Kwon Cho
Fusaichi Pegasus—Squall Linda, by Summer Squall
The San Felipe set up perfectly for him with one of the biggest pace meltdowns seen in a while. But he didn’t just take advantage of it; he demolished those horses. Between the two turns, blinkers off, and his pedigree, he’s for real. And no horse has demonstrated an explosive turn of foot like that. Better to run this race now than in his final prep. With his distance-loving French-influenced female family, distance should be no problem. He has inbreeding to the French mare Lavendula through the classy Ambiorix and Source Sucree, the dam of Turn-to. Add Mahmoud, Buckpasser, and Shut Out in his first five (female) generations and you’re talking true class and stamina.
Stay Thirsty Todd Petcher
Bernardini—Marozia, by Storm Bird
Seems to have come out of the Gotham in good shape and will get his real test in the Florida Derby, unless Uncle Mo bumps him from another race and makes him fly back to New York for the Wood. He only needs to run a good race and be closing in the stretch to be ready to take the big step to the Derby. No margin for error. One of the intangibles is going from hot weather to cold and then back to hot (then back to cold?). With Pletcher now tossing the Florida Derby into the Uncle Mo picture, this colt's next start won't be known until that decision has been made.
Mucho Macho Man Kathy Ritvo
Macho Uno—Ponche de Leona, by Ponche
Keeping sharp with a 1:00 4/5 breeze for Louisiana Derby. Still not crazy about the six-week layoff going into the Kentucky Derby, but he’s one horse who might be able to get away with it, considering his size and late birth date. But he is bucking history. Seems like the Risen Star was ages ago, and so much has happened since. But he still looks to be a legitimate Derby contender.
Jaycito Bob Baffert
Victory Gallop—Night Edition, by Ascot Knight
Other than having Premier Pegasus open up on him, this was an excellent first race back, considering the bizarre nature of the race and how far back he was and how much ground he lost. Blinkers back on for SA Derby. He was moving with good momentum on the turn, but was carried five-wide by Jakesam, then had to alter course to the inside when a tiring Comma to the Top drifted out into his path. He finished with good energy, handled the dirt just fine and should get a lot out of this race. Baffert was very happy with his effort and feels he’ll be much more focused with the blinkers back on.
To Honor and Serve Bill Mott
Bernardini—Pilfer, by Deputy Minister
Breezed an easy half in :51. The good sign is that Mott said he could see a significant physical change for the better since the Fountain of Youth, so that bodes well for a major turnaround in the Florida Derby. He’s going to need one. Really hate keeping him down this low after having him at #2, and he could gradually move back up if he continues to thrive over the next couple of weeks. But for now it’s all guesswork and he has to earn his place back near the top.
Santiva Eddie Kenneally
Giant’s Causeway—Slide, by Smarten
Breezed an easy five furlongs in 1:02. So far, he hasn’t given any reason not to like him. He’s never run a bad race, whether on dirt, grass, or synthetic, and his Beyers have increased with every race. Still pretty much under the radar and quietly goes about his business in a professional manner.
Gourmet Dinner Steve Standridge
Trippi—Potluck Dinner, by Pentelicus
As of Sunday, he hadn’t worked since the Fountain of Youth. There has been talk of running him in the Santa Anita Derby, which provide a good gauge on the California horses and how they stack against the Florida horses. Wherever he runs you know he’ll run hard and make his presence felt.
Silver Medallion Steve Asmussen
Badge of Silver—Another Vegetarian, by Stalwart
I normally don’t like including horses who have never run on dirt, but until the Rebel Stakes clears up the regional picture, this colt looks as good as anyone to fill in, he’s improving with every race, and his Beyers are climbing. Although Jakesam, second to him in the El Camino Real Derby, didn’t run well in that crazy San Felipe, the third-place finisher, Positive Response, romped in the Battaglia. He looks like a shifty horse who can run near or off the pace and has a good enough closing kick. And an astute bloodstock agent recently picked him out for purchase.
Astrology Steve Asmussen
A.P. Indy—Quiet Eclipse, by Quiet American
Have been sticking with him from the beginning, because he supposedly is a different horse than last year following a procedure last fall, but his plans keep changing, which is not a good sign. First the San Felipe, then Rebel, and now he won’t run in Rebel. Not much left for him except the Sunland Park Derby. If that’s where he goes, then he’ll have to come back in three weeks for possibly the Arkansas Derby. He has no shot in the Kentucky Derby off only one prep, especially running against a lesser group at Sunland. There has to be a concrete plan announced this week for him to remain on here.
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